Lethal luggage

Judith van de Griendt's Image

Judith van de Griendt (the Netherlands) experiences a heartbreaking scene caused by human carelessness.

Judith was with a team of freedivers in the Azores when they spotted the Bryde's whale moving unusually slowly. It was dragging at least 12 metres of discarded fishing net behind it. The team tried to cut it loose but were unsuccessful. Unless the net is removed, eventually it could cause the whale to die a painful death.

Most of the abandoned nets found in the Azores are believed to come from boats operating elsewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. An estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million tonnes of ghost fishing gear ends up in our oceans each year, killing millions of marine animals. Wildlife charities are raising awareness and appealing to government agencies and commercial fishers to change these practices.

How you can help

  • Ghost nets - fishing nets that have been discarded in the ocean - pose a significant threat to ocean life. If you see an animal in distress, do not approach it. Instead contact a local marine life rescue organisation or aquarium, who will be able to help.
  • Reduce your plastic use. Try conducting a plastic audit to see how much plastic you use in a week, this can help identify things that can be reduced, reused or recycled.
  • Participate in a clean-up to remove plastic from the rivers or coastal areas close to you. If there isn't one in your area, you can organise one with your family and friends.

See all the images in focus.

Behind the lens

Judith van de Griendt

Judith van de Griendt

The Netherlands

Judith is an underwater and wildlife photographer as well as a freedive instructor. Her pictures are taken in one breath and only with the use of natural light. Judith has contributed to articles about cetaceans, sharks and other underwater wildlife and is determined to contribute to ocean protection as much as possible. She is also an underwater videographer for TV programs for which freediving is the appropriate way of filming.

Image details

  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
  • M.Zuiko 7–14mm f2.8 PRO lens at 12mm
  • 1/200 sec at f5  •   ISO 400  •   Ikelite 200DLM/A housing
  • Faial Island, the Azores, Portugal
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